Defense is still a work in progress

September 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) talks to Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) after the game during the fourth quarter at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps our expectations were unrealistic. To be fair, we’ve gotten used to a certain standard since Zim arrived on the scene. The 2017 defense, of course, was the climax of his tenure as our HC / DC (some former players may put more emphasis on the “DC” part of things), but we’ve typically had impressive defenses.

Last season was an anomaly. We ended the year allowing, on average, 29.7 points per game. That was 29 in the NFL. Unsurprisingly, that kind of defensive performance contributed greatly to our 7-9 pedestrian record.

Collectively, we expected a bit more heading in the 2021 season. So far, we’ve had to deal with a somewhat disappointing defensive game.

Head over to ESPN and see where we are in the major categories. We are the fifth worst in yards per game, allowing just under 410 yards to the opposition. We’re closer to the middle when it comes to points allowed, but an average of 26 points against a game is nothing to brag about. Let’s not forget that our offense hasn’t struggled with turnovers, so it’s not like we’ve given up a few touchdowns at shortstop. No, unflattering numbers are almost exclusively the responsibility of the defense.

As I have noted above, everything in our defense begins with closing the race. Doing so forces the opposition to go through predictable scenarios. We all saw what happened when Seattle got in that position. It was an impeccable second half for our defense. Defensive coaches will tell you that you need to earn the opportunity to rush the passer. If you want to stick your ears back and chase the quarterback, you have to start by closing the race. Offensive coaches (John DeFilippo being the notable exception) will be more than happy to run all day if it leads to success.

Cleveland seems a bit beaten along the OL; They’ll still give us everything we can handle Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best pair of running backs in the league. They are the RB n. 2 and n. PFF # 3. We will need Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce to be really robust. Of course, getting Barr back in the fold will make a difference. His size / speed combination creates legitimate problems for other teams, especially as those physical attributes are associated with his high-level intelligence. I expect the ground defense to take a notable step forward if Barr returns healthy.

It is very possible that the identity of our team is changing. Last year, we were obviously an offensive team, but many of us (like yours really) assumed it was mainly due to the ridiculous amount of injury problems on Zim’s side. Well, we’re mostly healthy and we’ve brought in a ton of free agent talent. The offensive continues to lead the way.

The key, at least from my perspective, is going to rest in continuing to raise our defense floor. Eliminating the big grueling plays does wonders for defense. From there, we need to re-commit to closing the run ahead of time. Having Everson get back on track will help. Barr’s return will also be a boost, and the coaching staff should seriously consider re-inserting Dantzler into the lineup.

These infusions of talent will help us. Will it be enough for us to return to what we were once dominant? Time will tell. The next test will be against Kevin Stefanski’s Browns. Our former OC will surely have some special plays designed specifically for us.

We will soon discover how far our defense has gone.

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